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News - Lutein & Zeaxanthin may reduce cataract risk

By Holly Taylor BSc (Hons) DipCNM MBANT NTCC

It’s been recognised for a while now that lutein and zeaxanthin can help to protect against age related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness for people over 55, but new data from Finland suggests that that these nutrients may also reduce the risk of cataracts.

Previous studies have shown that long-term dietary intake of antioxidants may decrease the risk of age-related cataracts. The aim of the present study was to examine whether plasma concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin are relevant to age-related cataracts in the elderly population.

To carry out the study, the researchers from the University of Eastern Finland and Lapland Central Hospital analysed data from 1689 participants in the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study and divided them into three groups according to the concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin in their blood. They then identified the number of cases of cataracts and used a statistical model to calculate the relationship between cataract risk and lutein and zeaxanthin levels.

A total of 113 cases of age-related cataracts were confirmed and the results showed that subjects in the group with the highest plasma concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin had 41 % lower risks of cataracts compared with those in the lower level groups.

The researchers note that both compounds appeared to provide similar levels of protection from cataracts, stating that “both lutein and zeaxanthin protect liposomal membranes from light-induced oxidative stress”, which is a known factor in cataract development. 

Article References

Karppi J et al. Plasma lutein and zeaxanthin and the risk of age-related nuclear cataract among the elderly Finnish population. Br J Nutr. 2011 Oct 18:1-7

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